“The Cherry Orchard” deals with the Revolution of 1917 in Russia. The play was written when there was a social climate change in Russia. It was the downfall for aristocratic class but uprising of the middle class and serfs. It portrays a situation, in which aristocratic class is incapable of adapting to the changing social climate in Russia. Some of the critics argue that “The Cherry Orchard” is just a simple story of a wealthy family, who lost his estate to a man of the rising middle class but it is not true at all. It is not the story of a single family. Ranevsky’s family is representative of the whole aristocratic class, during revolution, in Russia. It is not only the family of Mrs. Ranevsky, who lost his estate but every elite class family faced the same situation after revolution. However, it is true that the play is about rising of middle class, in which a serf, namely Lpakhin purchases the estate, in which once his grandfathers along with him were servants.
Though Lopakhin, the writer has portrayed the middle class of Russia. Lopakhin, who was once servant to Mrs. Ranevsky’s estate becomes wealthy and ultimately at the end of play, purchases the same estate, in which once he was a servant. The play opens with the dialogue of Lopakhin, who is waiting for Mrs. Ranevsky and when she arrives, we realize that her estate is going to be auctioned but she is doing nothing in order to save it from auction. Lopakhin, who is a businessman, suggests leaving aristocratic lifestyle and advices Mrs. Ranvesky to save cherry orchard in following words:-
“..the cherry orchard is up for sale on August…Well-Stop worrying. All you have to do-divide up the orchard and the land down by the river into plots…build dachas, little cottages for the summer, rent them out and you’ll have an income of twenty thousand roubles a year…twenty at least……cut down the cherry orchard”
As discussed supra, Lopakhin is the representative of the middle class and this revolutionary idea of Lopakhin reveals the changing condition of serfs with the revolution of 1917 in Russia. Lopakhin even after becoming wealthy does not prefer wealthy lifestyle of living. He prefers simplicity and like a true businessman, is passionate about success. Possibly, Anton Chekhov wants to show that the reason behind triumph of middle class over the aristocrats is lifestyle of middle class. People of middle class do not spend money on splendid parties and dinners. Their main concern is to become successful in their lives by saving money. Instead of spending money like kings they spend it on business.
Lopakhin, being symbol of middle class, accepts change happily. In contrast to middle class, elite class is still not able to accept the social change in Russia. Mrs. Ranvesky, rejects the idea of Yermolay Lopakhin by saying:-
“Cut it down?…Are you serious? Don’t you understand? This cherry orchard is the most remarkable….”
Lopakhin, who is not slave now, is free to decide what to do for success. He is more passionate about his achievements even more than his marriage. If Mrs. Ranvesky is representation of elite class then Lopakhin, in contrast to her, is the representative of middle class. It is Lopahin, through which the writer shows the past of serfs and their rising with the revolution. Lopakhin is for change, whereas Mrs. Ranvesky is for resistance, who deliberately does not want to change with the atmosphere despite knowing that change is the law of nature. Yermolay Lopakhin’s speech is very much relevant in this regard. He, while defining the changing atmosphere in Russia says to Lyubov, “You must try to understand. Things have changed.”
At the end of play, we see Lopakhin purchases the Ranvesky estate in auction. It means, he had the capacity to purchase the estate and knew that he would in future purchase it even then he, like a loyal servant, tried his best to save cherry orchard from auction by advising Mrs. Ranvesky again and again. Lopakhin also reveals the condition of servants before revolution. He presently is a businessman but once he was also a servant. His past has also been defined by the writer in the play to put past, present and future of the middle class in juxtaposition. He worked hard; did not prefer aristocratic lifestyle; did not favor marriage; what he preferred is his passion to become a successful capitalist. Lopakhin, after purchasing the estate, while defining his past says:-
“I’ve bought the estate. The most beautiful thing in the whole world. Where my father and grandfather were serfs. Where they weren’t allowed even into the kitchens. I must be dreaming… … …”
The above lines uttered by Lopakhin shows the miserable past of the serfs, which is now came to end. Middle class is rising and has accepted change with open arms, whereas aristocratic class is against it. However, one day they will accept it; Mrs. Ranvesky resists to change but at the end she is compelled to consent it and ultimately leaves her estate.
It is also matter of fact that Yarmolay Lopakhin is an opportunist. Moreover, when he purchases “The Cherry Orchard” he becomes arrogant and starts axing the cherry trees even before the relinquishment of Ranvesky’s family. After purchasing “The Cherry Orchard”, he says:-
“I want to hear you! Everybody – Come and see Yermolay Lopakhin wilding his axe on the cherry orchard…down they come – down comes the cherry orchard…watch the trees come crashing down! We’re going to build dachas for our children….”
By and large, Lopakhin’s character is the very important in this play. A lot of symbolism is attached to it. Lopakhin’s character confirms that one who accepts change becomes successful, whereas one who resists it, faces destruction and annihilation. It is Lopakhin’s character, through which, the writer shows that the elite class was replaced by the middle class in Russia. His forefathers piled on the agony but now it is time to rest and enjoy his life without any enslavement. In short, Lopakhin is major character and its primary purpose is to show the rising of middle class in Russia.